A snake charmer in Tanzania has died after being bitten by a cobra he was playing with.
The 60-year-old snake charmer, James Henry, was a well-known snake charmer in the Kigoma area, in northwestern Tanzania. He was known locally for catching highly venomous snakes and killing them after capture.
The snake charmer had been called to remove two cobras from a village in the area when the incident occurred, East African news platform Tuko reported.
Henry caught and killed one of the cobras, leaving one of the highly venomous snakes still loose in the village. Once he managed to capture the remaining snake, however, he began playing with the highly venomous animal in order to enthrall the villagers, Tuko reported.
The snake lunged and bit the man on his finger and mouth, James Manyama, assistant commissioner of police, told Tuko. He was immediately taken to a local medical facility where he was treated with antivenom. However, he died during treatment.
A statement from the police given to Tuko said: “There is a death that has been caused by laziness in Kigoma. This man was known for his expertise in capturing snakes before killing them. However, he started playing around with the venomous snake. It turned on him and bit him on the mouth and finger. He died at a medical facility in the area.”
Newsweek has asked Kigoma police for comment.
Snake charmers are a type of street performer who appear to hypnotize venomous snakes. The act may include juggling the snakes, or performing other dangerous acts with them.
The police did not confirm what species of cobra it was, however Africa is home to various sub-species of spitting and non-spitting cobras. The most commonly found cobra in Tanzania is the Egyptian cobra, which lives across much of Africa.
It is one of the most venomous snakes in Africa and measures, on average, around 4.6 feet long.
It has a potent venom containing neurotoxins and cytotoxins. It mainly attacks the nervous system and causes heart paralysis within minutes.
A victim may stop breathing as soon as 30 minutes after a bite.
Cobras have an infamous reputation for being deadly and aggressive. However, like most snakes, cobras will not attack unless provoked. Most species of cobra prefer to find an escape route, rather than attack.
However, up to one million snake bites occur in Africa every year. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are an estimated 30,000 deaths from snake bites every year. Deaths are more common in rural areas, where antivenom may be less accessible. They are often caused by accident, for example, if a local villager accidentally steps on one that is lurking in the weeds.
This article by Robyn White was first published by Newsweek on 16 May 2022. Lead Image: A stock photo shows a cobra. The most common cobra in Tanzania is the Egyptian Cobra. MRJO2405/GETTY IMAGES.
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